Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Three Yacht Clubs in Marblehead, Massachusetts

Photos by Salt Water New England
It is hard to imagine some passages, such as this one written by Judson Hale in 1982, surviving the modern editor, which is one reason reading older books can be so entertaining.
I haven't been in any of the three yacht clubs in Marblehead, Massachusetts, for some years, but I remember how each used to demonstrate physically its place on the New England social ladder. Out on Marblehead Neck, where all the summer people have their places, are the Eastern Yacht Club and the Corinthian Yacht Club. Old families with old money — that is, families that have been in the area (including the Boston area) for a number of generations — belonged to the Eastern Yacht Club. No one else was allowed to join. The clubhouse itself always looked to me as if it might collapse. It needed stain or paint, there always seemed to be a loose board or two out on the porch, and the dining and other facilities were modest, though with a certain quiet, old charm. However, belonging to the Eastern meant you were "in." If you didn't belong, you were "out" — and might just as well join the Corinthian Yacht Club.
The Corinthian accepted new people with new money, and its clubhouse and docks were new, meticulously maintained, modern, and posh. To a Texan or anyone else not knowledgeable in New England ways, inspection of the physical facilities of the Eastern and the Corinthian back in those days would have caused the Corinthian to be the immediate and obvious choice. From the New England point of view, that would be all well and good. As my aunt on my father's side once told me, "A Texan may be a braggart, but he can never be a snob."    
Then there was the Boston Yacht Club, located across the harbor from "the Neck," in the town of Marblehead. It was always considered the place for those not in any way interested, or able to be interested, in social considerations. It was for townspeople. So its clubhouse was neither run down nor posh. It was straightforward, perfectly comfortable, practical. Of course, some members of old area families, particularly the young ones with old money, deliberately chose the Boston Yacht Club over the Eastern. That's a related but slightly different form of snobbery, which was negated completely if you belong to both, as some did.
- Judson Hale, Inside New England <


  1. Very amusing, but where does the Boston Yacht Club fit in this pecking order--the yacht club on the other side of the harbor not on "The Neck" and the sponsor of the venerable Marblehead-Halifax Ocean Race?

  2. This all reminds me of the book The Status Seekers written in 1959 by Vance Packard. It's one of the most searing and sardonic looks at social status I've ever read. It really opened my eyes.

  3. Jud with one d - I bet he'd write it the same way now!

  4. But what about Pleon?

  5. Pecking order is quite a bit different today. And Marblehead has 3 clubs on the town side and 3 clubs on the neck side.

  6. Hilarious, but I think a Texan can be a snob. A lot are old southern families going back to the First Families of Virginia and the Jamestown group can be just as snobby as the Plymouth haha

    1. If that's the case you will never know it because FFV and Jamestowne Society members do not brag. The snobs are the Highland Park new monied.

  7. For many years my family enjoyed "belonging" at the Boston Yacht Club. We always parked just outside that quite small parking lot at the club and for good reason. We would take the launch out to our sailboat and sound the horn for pickup when it was time to get a ride back at the end of the prolonged, two short if my memory serves me right. What a wonderful aura to the place...until they finally figured out we weren't actually members! Ooops! My father had an uncanny knack for walking into places he didn't belong as if he owned them. Ultimately we joined the Corinthian for real...I think. If we weren't members there I feel for whoever had to pick up our food tab at the pool.

  8. That is a great story, I'll bet your father is/was an interesting man.

  9. Are these ‘rules’ still applied in 2018 ? I am a member of the Royal Cape Yacht Club ( 44 years good-standing) and I can tell you things have changed. When I joined in 1974 I was given a ‘look up, and down’. I recall a superior of mine, possibly twice my age, who applied at the same time but was ‘blakballed’ as not being ‘suitable’. Somehow I doubt this still goes on. Except perhaps at certain clubs in the St James club area in London.


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